Charlemagne Wine Club

Charlemagne Wine Club - News 2011

News 2011

Berry Brothers report drop in demand for organic/bio wines
In a review of last year’s trends, the company recorded a 54% decline in the volume of biodynamic wines sold compared to 2010, while organic wines fell even further, dropping as much as 63%.

UK Tax on wines on target to overtake Beer taxes
The UK Treasury will receive more money from wine duty than from beer as soon as 2014-15, according to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Projections are that wine revenue to the Treasury will rise from £3.1bn (2010-2011) to £4.2bn in 2014-15. Beer revenues will only rise from £3.7bn to £4bn.

Wine Spectator's 2011 Top 100 selection
The authoritative American wine magazine has released its annual list of the top 100 wines from the 16 thousand tasted. Obviously, this is focussed on the US market, but it makes interesting reading. The list figured 40 US wines, 20 from Italy, 18 from France, 6 from Spain and 5 from Portugal. The remainder came from Argentina, Australia, Germany and New Zealand (2 each) and single selections from Austria, Greece and South Africa.
The top four wines (in order) were Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 2009 (Sonoma Coast) (12th last year); Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Napa Valley) (18th last year); Domaine Huët Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg Première Trie 2009 (Loire Valley); Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino 2006.
Click here for the full listing

Fighting Fake Bordeaux in China
French authorities are trying to reduce fake Bordeaux wine. Only a small portion of wine fraud involves counterfeit labels of real châteaus - a much bigger worry is wine labeled with fictitious châteaus using Bordeaux AOCs. Bordeaux is not a protected geographic indication (GI) in China, so there isn't a lot of legal recourse.
China has now signed a cooperation agreement with the French authorities and sent their investigators to wine school. The trained inspectors will have an app SmartBordeaux on their handhelds, so they can quickly determine the authenticity of a label. The plan is that they will spot the fake Bordeaux, and pass on their findings to the authorities.
While Bordeaux officials admit that they can't completely stop fraud in China, they hope to win GI protection by 2012. In the meantime, winegrowers have been told to protect themselves by copyrighting their brand in China. Unfortunately, this is costly - and if a Chinese distributor has copyrighted a wine brand, which they do, then he owns it in China not the producer.

Designer Labels
Bordeaux château Rauzan-Ségla (Margaux) is celebrating the château's 350th anniversary with an exclusive 2009 vintage label created by fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, head of the Chanel fashion house. Both Chanel and Rauzan-Ségla are owned by the Wertheimer family.

Paper wine bottles
We have seen the popularisation of wine in alternative packaging - TetraPak cartons, wine in cans, wine in plastic bottles, wine in bags, wine in bags in boxes. Now a British firm, Greenbottle, has invented a new package for both wine and milk bottles. The handy new packages are a mere tenth the weight of standard glass bottles and are, of course, biodegradable. And to keep the wine inside a paper bottle, there is a plastic lining.

Bodegas Señorio de Villarrica destroyed by fire
A kitchen fire in the Rioja winery spread and the flames reached such an intensity that the cellar roof collapsed, wrecking most of the 1,500 barrels held there along with much of its 400,000-litre inventory. Owned and operated by the Fernández family, Villarrica has vineyards around the communes of Hervias and San Ascensio, bottling Tempranillo from everyday price points up to an exclusive €3,000 label

Record sales at the Hospices de Beaune auction
The world's biggest annual charity auction in the annual ritual for Burgundy winemakers that stretches back more than one-and-a-half centuries raised over 5.8 million euros. This broke the 2009 record of 5.5 millions. There were, however, more lots for sale and average prices were down on last year by 6.2 percent for reds and 12.9 percent for the whites as the financial crisis and economic worries hurt even the steadiest asset values in the global wine trade. The main item, the special President's lot of 460 litres of red Corton Clos du Roi, Cuvee Baronne du Bay raised 110,000 euro for two charities.

'Systembolaget behind wine club police report' claims wine club
Sweden’s state-run alcohol monopoly Systembolaget has been accused of having had a hand in a police report filed by IOGT-NTO, a temperance society. The Swedish temperance society reported a string of wine clubs operating in Sweden to the Economic Crime Authority (Ekobrottsmyndigheten), alleging that they are “While only Systembolaget is permitted to retail alcohol, these companies have opened a fully-fledged sales operation on the side. That is why we have filed this report,” said IOGT-NTO in a statement. But one of the ten firms named in the police report, the Australian Wine Club, has responded angrily and accused Systembolaget of having been behind the report. “We have told the prosecutor that this is completely without foundation. We are completely legal under Swedish and EU law. The only reason this is happening is because Systembolaget has worked with IOGT-NTO on this” claimed the CEO. “The report is an attempt by Systembolaget to force a competitor out of business.”

Cheaper wines for Russians
Thanks to the World Trade Organisation, Russians may soon be able to enjoy a glass of Beaujolais for less than ever before. Currently, the cheapest bottles of European and New World wines start at around seven dollars – more expensive than a litre of Russian-produced vodka. But with the country scheduled to enter the World Trade Organisation next year, import tariffs will have to come down. For wine they will fall from 20 percent to 12.5 within four years. 60 percent of all the bottles of wine sold in the country are either imported directly, or bottled from foreign ingredients inside Russia. Anatoliy Korneev, the vice-president of Simple, a major importer, predicts that the prices for the cheapest imported wines could fall by as much as a half.

Sabotage suspected in loss of 500 thousand litres of wine
Almost a million dollars worth of wine was destroyed at Terrel Estates winery in New South Wales when vats were drained overnight. Police are not sure if this was pure vandalism or an attempt to sabotage the winery.

New World Record for the largest margarita ever made
To celebrate the opening of a new casino on 15th October at Margaritaville in Las Vegas, a massive 8,500 gallon cocktail was mixed. The concoction was big enough to serve 181,333 margaritas.

Umlaut-friendly wine from Motörhead
Legendary heavy metal band Motörhead has followed acts such as Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Cliff Richards into the wine business. The band has released a Shiraz (which they recommend pairing with lamb chops) made by Australia's Broken Back Winery.

Penedès preparing for a major overhaul of its appellation system
The Regulatory Council of the Penedès DO in Spain is leading a campaign to split the region into five or six further sub-zones, with the emphasis on promoting some superior sub-regions within the generic appellation. Penedès DO currently covers a region from the Mediterranean coast to 800m above sea, with two chains of mountains and a valley in the middle, resulting in different microclimates and varying soil compositions . Six sub-regions are proposed within Penedès – Garraf, Ordal, Alt Penedes, Central Valley A and Central Valley B and a further sixth sub-zone is still being decided upon. If these changes are approved by the Penedès Wine Council, they could be implemented by summer 2012.

Wine grapes good quality but in short supply in this year’s California harvest
A late freeze and early rains have combined this year to create low yields in California. But quality is predicted to be exceptional, thanks to a mild summer season. Without drastic temperature spikes that cause excess sugar levels, clusters are spending more time on the vine developing flavour. While that could add up to a great vintage, some wines might be in short supply, especially lower-priced wines sold under store labels.

Astrolabe brand wine stuck in vessel Rena aground on Astrolabe Reef, New Zealand
4000 cases of sauvignon blanc Astrolabe label wine, with a retail value of £500,000, have been stuck on container ship Rena since it grounded on the Astrolabe Reef off the port of Tauranga, New Zealand. The wine was scheduled for the Irish Christmas market. Château Haut-Brion wines auctioned at Bill Clinton's birthday bash
President Bill Clinton celebrated his 65th birthday , marking the occasion, and the 10th anniversary of his charitable foundation with a gala event in Hollywood. As well as special guest Stevie Nicks, another attraction was an auction lot valued in excess of half a million dollars: two custom wine consoles containing eight bottles each of Château Haut-Brion. The reds include 1935, 1945, 1959, 1961, 1975, 1989, 1990 and 2009 vintages from the esteemed first-growth, and the whites include 1969, 1976, 1983, 1989, 1994, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Burgundy harvesting begins - "Good but not great" vintage predicted
Harvesting has commenced for the 2011 Burgundy vintage with a sense of slight disappointment. Heavy rain in July and August has caused some rot problems and low sugar levels.

Spätburgunder vineyards raided
Thieves stole two tons of grapes using a mechanical harvester in an overnight raid on Weingut von Winning in Germany's Pfalz region. The thieves are thought to be members of the industry themselves since they had a harvester. Von Winning's Stephen Attman believes that the crime would be solved eventually when "somewhere a super wine is produced by a winemaker who is otherwise not known for such high quality."

Bordeaux wine school linking up with Beijing school
The wine school of Chateau La Tour Blanche in Sauternes has gone into partnership with a school in Beijing to teach oenology students from China.
The students will first spend six months in Beijing, training in the basics of wine. They will then spend a year at the Sauternes estate, learning wine-tasting techniques, wine service and wine culture.

Poor Italian harvest expected
Excessive heat through the summer is being blamed for an early harvest for Italian grapes, with reduced yields. Quality is expected to be high, though.
Combined the reduced Italian harvest with an anticipated bumper crop in France, this is anticipated to knock Italy off its two-year leadership of the world's largest wine production league table.

Record auction prices for Romanee-Conti paid by Chinese buyer
A rare case of Romanee-Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundy sold for $297,400 in Hong Kong on 17th September. The two day sale raised nearly $12 million.
A similar 12-bottle case of Romanee-Conti 1990 DRC sold for £126,500 ($201,900) at Bonhams in London on 8th Sept. Chinese buyers are obviously more enthusiastic spenders!

No more Australian Champagne
From September 1, sparkling wines produced in Australia can no longer be labeled as champagne. This is part of a trade agreement between Australia and the European Union, meant to protect winegrowers around the world and enforce labeling laws, an initiative of the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne) in France.
Countries like the US, Russia and Vietnam, however, continue to mislabel their bottles, says CIVC. According to its US branch, more than 50 percent of sparkling wine in the US is mislabeled as champagne.

Cliff Richard celebrates winning five awards at a Portuguese wine competition
Cliff Richard owns the 24 hectare Adega do Cantor (Cellar of the Singer) in Albufeira in the Algarve, where he produces around 50,000 cases of wine a year. At this year's Concurso O Melhor Vinho Do Algarve 2011 awards in Faro, he wons five awards including Best Red from the Region for his 2009 Onda Nova Alicante Bouschet, and gold medals for his Onda Nova Verdelho 2010 and Vida Nova Rosé 2010.

Vintage Albanian wines
A US-Albanian archeological expedition reports that it has found a well-preserved wreck of a 1st century Roman cargo ship off Albania’s coast, complete with some 300 wine jars. Its cargo is believed to have been the produce of southern Albanian vineyards en route to western European markets, including France.

Waitrose to stock wine from India
“The quality of Indian wine has improved a great deal over the past five years,” claims Waitrose wine buyer Matt Smith. Selected Waitrose branches will stock a peppery red, Zampa Syrah, and a crisp white, Ritu Viognier, made from grapes grown in the Maharashtra region of western India.

Drown Your Sorrows in 9/11 Memorial Wine?
Long Island vintners Lieb Cellars are selling a September 11th memorial wine. Lieb Cellars claim that their 9/11 memorial wine was made "using grapes grown 90-miles from the site of the World Trade Center." It has been approved as a fund-raiser for the Ground Zero memorial, with up to 10% of sales for the charity. But victims' families are seeing red, describing this as "tacky", "distasteful" and "commercializing 9/11, and this isn't an event that should be commercialized".

One-third of the entire 2010 vintage of Mollydooker Velvet Glove destroyed
A faulty forklift truck dropped a US-bound consignment of premium Australian shiraz Mollydooker Velvet Glove 2010 vintage. The 20 foot descent smashed 5,532 bottles with a retail value in USA of $10M.

Chateau Guiraud of Bordeaux to celebrate Chinese festival with Fete de la Lune d'Or
Bordeaux vineyards continue to try and build lasting relationships that will strengthen the market for the region's wine in China. The latest initiative sees Chateau Guiraud hosting a celebration to mark the Moon Festival, one of the most important dates in the Chinese year. Chateau Guiraud will hold the Fete de la Lune d'Or at its Sauternes estate on September 12th. The mid-autumn festival is marked with the giving of mooncake pastries, along with other gifts. In recent years, these accompanying presents have often included a bottle of Bordeaux wine. Chateau Giraud recently extended its operations in China by opening two major storage cellars in the region.

Moderate wine drinking may help promote weight loss
Drinking just a glass of wine a day may actually help weight loss, researchers now believe. “Light-to-moderate alcohol intake, especially wine intake, may be more likely to protect against weight gain, whereas consumption of spirits has been positively associated with weight gain,” says the paper by researchers at Navarro University in Spain, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews.
“Alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain” as 1 gram of alcohol has an energy content of 7.1 calories, it reports. But alternative drinks may be worse, and more research should be carried out into the role of “different types of alcoholic beverages”. A pint of lager contains about 200 calories, twice as many as in a glass of wine. “The type of alcoholic beverage might play an important role in modifying the effect of alcohol consumption on weight gain.” Other research has suggested that moderate drinkers are at 30 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes, and that even obese people should not abstain from alcohol for this reason.

Lighter wine bottles by law
The Liquor Control Board of the Canadian province of Ontario recently enacted a law setting a weight limit on glass wine bottles. Beginning January 2013, all wines costing $15 Canadian or less must be bottled in glass weighing approximately 400 grammes. Why only inexpensive wines? Because, in restaurants, sommeliers impress guests by "pouring from the punt" - that is, holding an expensive wine from the bottom, with the thumb in the indent (known as the punt) at the base of the bottle. Some people also believe that the area around the punt traps sediment. So, the thinking goes, high-end wineries might be unwilling to part ways with their weighty punts, not to mention their large, thick bottles.

Are wines getting more alcoholic?
Based upon a sample of 91 thousand observations between 1992 and 2007, researchers at the University of California, Davis have concluded that wines are becoming more alcoholic. The average increase over 15 years is about half of one percent alcohol. Red wines alcohol content rose by 0.62%, whilst white wines had increased by a smaller 0.36%. Some, but not much, of this trend can be accounted for by local trends in temperature increases, which would be expected to generate more sugar in grapes and thus more alcoholic wine. The researchers conclude that the rise in alcohol is primarily man-made and the patterns suggest that rising alcohol content of wine may be a nuisance by-product of producers responding to perceived customer preference for wines having riper, more-intense flavours.
Additionally, the declared alcohol content on the label was compared to the measured level. Considering the whole set of data, the declared level averaged 13.30% alcohol by volume compared to an actual 13.16%. 57% of the wines' labels understated the alcohol content. The average difference was a little higher for New World wines compared to Old World wines, but similar for red and white wine. The discrepancy is increasing over time. Reporting errors do vary among countries of origin (the largest understatements of the alcohol content include Chile, Argentina, Spain and the United States), possibly reflecting differences in regulations.

The prehistory of yeast explored - how yeast “learnt” to produce wine from fruit
Yeasts are unicellular eukaryotic fungi which can ferment sugar to ethanol without completely oxidising it to carbon dioxide - essential for the production of wine and beer. The yeast molecular genetics group at Lund University in Sweden and counterparts in Milan have been trying to reconstruct the history of yeasts to find the driving forces behind the evolution of this phenomenon. They compared two very different wine yeasts which in nature often occupy a similar niche using comparative genomic techniques to trace their molecular development.
The two yeasts' lineages separated more than 200 million years ago. Approximately 100-150 million years ago, both yeasts experienced very similar environmental conditions with the sudden appearance of modern fruits and environmental pressures. Both lineages, independently and in parallel, developed the abilities both to make and accumulate ethanol in the presence of oxygen and also resistance to high ethanol concentration. Both used this ability as a weapon to outcompete other microbes sensitive to ethanol.
“Our results now help to reconstruct the original environment and evolutionary trends that operated within the microbial community in the remote past,” says Jure Piskur from Lund University. “We can now use the knowledge we have obtained to develop new yeast strains, which could be beneficial for wine and beer fermentation and in biofuel production.”

French Wine Consumption Drops 40% in Two Generations
French wine consumption has dropped by three billion bottles to just four billion (the equivalent of one bottle per adult each week) in two generations, and just 16.5% cent of the French population are now regular wine drinkers. Researchers from the ESC Pau research centre and Toulouse 1 Capitole University fear the culture of wine drinking is being lost in France, with younger generations less likely to savour a bottle over food and more prone to drink simply for pleasure.

Italy overtakes France to become world's largest wine producer
According to the European Commission in 2010 Italy produced 4.96 billion litres of wine compared to 4.62 billion in France, a drop of one per cent from last year.

Australian grape glut dismays the wine industry
The Australian wine industry has produced another bumper vintage following good ripening conditions during summer. The Winemakers' Federation of Australia has estimated the 2011 harvest at 1.62 million tonnes (equivalent to about 1.2 billion litres of wine), well ahead of market expectations, which had been as low as 1.1 million tonnes.
But this is not necessarily good news. Adding this year's production to the 1.7 billion litres the industry already has in stock, winemakers now have more than twice as much wine as they need to supply annual demand.

Australian wine competitions ban New Zealand wines
Three top wine competitions in Australia (Canberra Wine Show and Tasmanian and Perth competitions) have banned New Zealand wines from entering, saying help is no longer needed to give NZ wines a foothold in the Australian market. New Zealand sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs and more recently syrahs have consistently won top awards in Australian wine contests. Just one major competition - the Sydney International Wine Competition - has not banned New Zealand wines. It is not clear how far the massive Australian wine glut has influenced these decisions.

Pennsylvania automatic wine kiosk idea fails
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has been piloting automatic wine kiosks in supermarkets and other wine stores, rather than in the state monopoly stores. However, the overly complicated devices (equipped with Breathalyzers, driver's license readers, and live video links to monitoring services) have turned out to be prohibitively unreliable and unapproachable. Now, one supermarket chain (which hosts a third of the kiosks in the state) has demanded that the state beverage ministry remove the wine vending machines within 30 days. The chain found that the kiosks not only fell short of their stated goal of improving customer convenience, but also appeared to be doing actual harm to the rest of the grocer's business. wine scam convictions
The former owner of an upmarket Leeds restaurant 3 York Place and his accomplice have admitted in court a wine scam of £380,000. They were the brains behind that promised excellent plonk at a bargain price. Adverts posted online and in national newspapers in March 2010 claimed the company was selling clearance wine and champagne from restaurants that had closed due to the recession. But the wine never existed and Denis Lefrancq fled the country to evade justice.

Majestic Wine plans to double in size over the next 10 years
After a successful year with like-for-like sales growth of 5.3% a jump in annual profits, Majestic Wine revealed big plans to expand to at least 330 stores (from a current 165) at a rate of 12 a year.

Cork-clad house draws tourist crowds to Czech wine-making town
Miroslav Svoboda, a bricklayer in the Czech Republic's picturesque South Moravian wine-making region elaborately decorated the facade of his house in Mutenice using 180,000 wine corks. Skilfully-made triangular and circular cork and pebble ornaments adorn three sides of the house. Svoboda has been working on a cork heart on the fourth side for three years. The house has become a tourist attraction for visitors from the region as well as abroad.

Chinese "champagne"
Moet Hennessy, the makers of Dom Perignon and Krug, is hoping its Chinese bubbly, which will sell under its Chandon label, will slake the country's growing thirst for wine and other luxury goods. Farmers in Ningxia are switching from growing watermelons on 163 acres of flood plains of the Yellow River to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first bottles will be ready in three years. Moet has not disclosed the cost of its Chinese sparkling wine, but it will be significantly cheaper that its imported champagne, which attracts heavy duties and sells for at least 45 pounds a bottle.
Moet has also recently announced a similar plan in India, where its "Nashik Chandon" sparkling wine is aging in cellars and will be released next year.

Bernie Madoff's wine collection raises $41,530 for Ponzi scheme victims
The eclectic wine and spirit collection of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff were auctioned off last night, realising double the price expected. All 59 lots, ranging from fine Bordeaux to small bottles of spirits often found in hotel minibars, were sold. As expected, the top lot was a case of 1996 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild which went for $6,800. 73-year-old Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence in North Carolina's Butner Medium federal prison.

Sommelier Society of America endorses Corks
The Sommelier Society of America (founded 1954) announced that the Society has endorsed natural cork as the preferred closure for wine. "As a sommelier I know there is nothing that can replace the pleasure of hearing the iconic 'pop' when you extract a natural cork from a bottle of wine," said the Society's chairman. "It is an integral part of the romance of wine, and it remains the gold standard for wine closures."
The announcement was jointly with 100% Cork, a campaign (funded by the Portuguese Cork Association and the Cork Quality Council) to educate the public about the environmental, economic and social benefits of natural cork.

Vintage Champagne auction
Two bottles of champagne, one from Veuve Clicquot and the other from former Champagne house Juglar, from an early 1840s vintage will be auctioned in June in in Mariehamn, the capital of the Åland Islands of Finland. The wines were recovered in July last year from a Baltic shipwreck. If you are concerned about cellarage conditions at the bottom of the Baltic, Perrier-Jöuet reportedly has a few bottles from around the same period buried in their cellar in Epernay.

Wine Antioxidant Might Provide Radiation Protection
In the midst of ongoing concerns about radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently evaluating a drug for its ability to protect against radiation sickness. But it is difficult to make in large amounts, and the drug has side-effects that prevent its use for cancer patients. To overcome these disadvantages, researchers from the Univ. of Pittsburg report studied whether resveratrol — a natural antioxidant found in red wine, grapes and nuts — could protect against radiation sickness. They found that resveratrol protected cells in flasks from radiation damage. A similar natural product called acetyl resveratrol protected irradiated mice. The authors caution that it has not yet been determined whether acetyl resveratrol is effective when orally administered. The report appears in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters.

Robert Parker Releases Scores for Bordeaux 2010 Vintage
Robert Parker, the world’s most influential wine critic, released his scores for the Bordeaux 2010 vintage and updating his scores on the 2008 vintage on 3rd May. Parker argues that the wines will enjoy “astonishing longevity” on the back of high alcohol, fresh acids, lower pHs and huge tannins. 2010, like 2009 and 2005 may be the “three greatest Bordeaux vintages I have tasted in my career.” At this early stage, nine Châteaux have scored a possible 100 for 2010 vintage. For the consumer, this is a mixed blessing. Despite quality levels being very high, prices are likely to increase by as much as 20%.

Outrage over motorway bridge across the Mosel Valley
Wine growers in Germany have warned of the death of the Mosel Valley after the local government approved plans to span the historic valley with a mammoth four-lane bridge. Vintners have said the bridge will destroy the unique wine-growing environment of the south-west valley famed for its world-class Rieslings, as well as become an eyesore on an unspoilt beauty spot. Opponents of the 10-column, mile-long bridge claim its presence will affect the soil quality and irrigation of the valley's steep, slate sides, and cast an unwelcome shadow over the vines. But the Rhineland-Palatinate state government, which approved the plan, said the bridge will help bring in more tourists to the region, and Werner Schmitz, the mayor of the Urzig, which will lie near the bridge, said that 90 per cent of the town's population approves of its construction. The Hochmoseluebergang (Upper Mosel Crossing) has been in the works since 1968. Construction had started two years ago but was halted by environmental concerns.

Chardonnay with a delicate hint of coal?
A team of French vignerons are taking a radical approach to the concept of terroir. They have planted 3,000 vines on the southfacing slopes of spoil heaps of disused coal mines in Haillicourt, a depressed former pit village south east of Calais. Olivier Pucek is hoping for his first vintage next year, expecting a wine with a strong character. though he is slightly worried about is how it will be affected by the smell of coal.

Asparagus Wines?
Asparagus is usually very difficult to match with wine as it contains nn amino acid called methionine along with another substance called mercaptan - which can make most wines taste very unpleasant. However, Kellie Fox of the Fox Barn Market & Winery in Michigan has attempted making wines based upon asparagus grown by her husband Todd Fox. Adding sugar and yeast to mashed asparagus produced a ferment but "It did not smell great". Fox persisted, clarifying the vegetable concoction until it improved and improved, and finally bottled about 90 half-bottles - some of which have actually been sold.

English Sparkling Wine v Champagne
A recent blind tasting comparing 52 English sparkling wines against against six non-UK sparkling wines (four Champagnes and two others) was organised by Stephen Skelton MW. The non-English wines were carefully chosen in the same price range as UK-sparklers (£13-£37). Champagnes chosen were Moët (the world’s largest Champagne brand, the UK’s favourite and considered a benchmark for NV Champagnes), and Sainsbury’s Champagnes recognised as offering excellent quality and value for money. Other internationals were Pelorus vintage (one of New Zealand’s best) and Codorniu Cava (Spain’s top producer with over 150 years of experience). The jury included no less than 4 MWs.
The top two, both from Ridgeview, were 2 different vintages of their 100% Chardonnay, Grosvenor. Third was a rosé Champagne from Sainsbury’s, and the a close fourth was new sparkling wine estate, Gusbourne, with their first releases.

Too good to be true - Warnings against counterfeit wine
Trading Standards has warned retailers to be on their guard against a “growing problem” of counterfeit wine in circulation, after 600 bottles were seized from London off-licences. The imitation Jacob’s Creek bottles contain “inferior quality wine”, although nothing hazardous, and are being offered to retailers for £2 each. Havering Council alone seized 340 bottles from 19 retailers. The illegal wine has reportedly come from China and looks very similar to the original product, but has spelling mistakes in the small print. One example shows the country of origin is spelt ‘Austrlia’ instead of Australia. The wine has consisted of various listed varietals including Chardonnay and Merlot, and has been found across London and in Bristol and Brighton.

Judge dismisses suit against Christie's over fake wine in auction
U.S District Judge Barbara Jones in New York has dismissed wine collector William Koch’s lawsuit against auction house Christie’s International. Koch, who spent more than $12 million amassing a 40,000-bottle cellar, had accused Christie’s of selling him a counterfeit bottle of 1870 Lafite for $4,200 at an auction. But the judge ruled that because Koch believed the wine was a fake when he bid on it, he could not claim he had been injured by Christie’s. Koch’s suit was part of his five-year campaign costing several million dollars against counterfeit wines being sold to collectors.

High Speed wine on the rails
To interest customers in its new catering menus, First Hull Trains’ travellers enjoyed wine tasting at 125mph. The company’s head of customer service delivery and his onboard team served free glasses of wine. A new selection of red, white and rose wines from a range produced by Jackson Nugent Vinters Limited were sampled by customers as they headed home from a busy day in the Capital. The new menus will be introduced during week commencing 15 May 2011.

Clare Valley hit by heavy rainfall
Grapegrowers in key South Australian wine regions (particularly Clare Valley) have been hit by extended bad weather. Bunch rot and botrytis are reported already causing serious problems. The vice chairman of the region's Grapegrowers Association, Anthony Koerner, says "Quite a bit of fruit is already being rejected so it won't be picked. It will just be left on the vine because it's got too much rot in it."

Genetically modified yeast to combat wine-triggered headaches
Genetically modified ML01 yeast was recently approved for winemaking in Canada and the U.S. The new yeast reportedly prevents the growth of bioamines in wine (substances which can trigger brutal headaches and flashes of pain, affecting 30 percent of the world's population). Dr. Hennie van Vuuren, the yeast's creator and professor at the University of British Columbia, has been experimenting with the yeast for 15 years and conducted tests with wineries over a number of years. He is not just the yeast's creator as he, too, suffers from bioamine sensitivity and so has a personal stake in the success of the work.

Penfold winemaker produces a special wine for charity
Daryl Groom, who once crafted Australia’s Penfolds, is now putting his skills toward heart health. His 12-year-old son Colby was born with a hole in his heart. Now, Daryl and Colby are giving back to heart research with wine. The new Colby Red from Treasury Wine Estates (parent company of Penfolds) is a blend of California Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and other grapes - proceeds will contribute to heart reseach.

Georgian wines may be making a comeback in Russia
Georgian wine have been missing from Russian shelves after a ban by authorities in 2006. After years of illegal imports and fakes on Russian shelves, the authorities seem to be ready to relax their stance on the ban. Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko announced that Georgia will have to first "present their products and pass control measures." However, Georgian wine may have to give way to Russian-produced wine with the same names. A Cognac plant in Kizlyar and Dagestan’s Guild of Kremlin providers have started registering trademarks in Russia with the names of Georgian wines ahead of any decision.

Austrian winemaker claims music makes better wine
Markus Bachmann, a former French horn player, has created a tiny speaker to be inserted directly into fermenting must in the belief that soundwaves make yeast cells move around and absorb more sugar. 'The wines get more fruity, they get mature earlier. All the flavours stand alone much better’ he claims. Now he had teamed up with six Austrian producers to make a 30,000-litre test batch of musically-influenced Sonor Wines.

Viña Concha y Toro buying Fetzer Vineyards for US$238m
Chilean wine giant Viña Concha y Toro (who also own Cono Sur, Frontera and Casillero del Diabolo brands) will take over Californian Fetzer Vineyards from April. Included in the sale are the Fetzer winery, bottling facility, and vineyards, as well as the Fetzer brand and other California-based wines including Bonterra and Coldwater Creek.

Oddbins closing 39 stores
Oddbins, one of the last remaining independent off-licence chains, has announced plans to close a third of its shops as it struggles to cope with the deteriorating consumer backdrop. The wine merchant said it will shrink its network to 89 from 128 as part of an initial plan to restructure the group.

Marangoni Convection in Space: Observing Wine-Glass Phenomenon in a Gravity-Free Environment
Wine legs or tears is a phenomenon seen as a ring of clear liquid formed near the top of a glass above the surface of wine. The drops continuously form and fall in rivulets back into the liquid. One factor in the way fluid moves is called Marangoni convection. As well as providing interest in a wineglass, Marangoni negatively affects the quality of semiconductor growth.
Japanese researchers are very interested in studying it, and are promoting four Marangoni experiments at the International Space Station to understand surface-tension-driven flow in microgravity. It is difficult to observe the effects of Marangoni convection on Earth because this convection force is much weaker than gravity.

Is a Wallaby a Kangaroo?
Yellow Tail is the top selling imported wine label in USA. Casella Wines, which owns the Australian brand, is now locked in a trademark fight with US company The Wine Group who are using a kangaroo on the label of its brand called Little Roo. Casella says wallaby and kangaroo icons, which are both orientated the same way on the label, are indistinguishable to US consumers. The Wine Group said in a court filing that it "denies that the Australian wallaby is interchangeably referred to as a kangaroo". Casella still hopes to solve the trademark problem through discussions with The Wine Group.

Barn Owls as an "integrated solution" for vineyards
Californian vineyards in Lodi are encouraging barn owls for "natural rodent control and integrated pest management". However, this has had a negative impact - attaching nesting boxes to electricity poles has resulted in more power cable strikes and power cuts by the birds. So Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has made a $25,000 grant to assist grapegrowers in removing existing boxes from utility poles and erecting 100 freestanding owl homes.

Alcohol improves superconductivity
Researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan have been studying superconductors (metals that conduct electricity extremely effectively at very low temperatures) and part of their research involved soaking one material in plain water and a water/ethanol mix. But this led to an unlikely discovery. While the water-and-ethanol mix increased superconductivity about 15 percent, commercial alcohol worked much better, with red wine increasing conductivity a full 62 percent. However, pouring wine on your computer won't speed it up!

Chinese wine brand Great Wall buys big into Bordeaux
COFCO (owners of Chinese wine brand Great Wall) have bought the 49-acre Château de Viaud in Lalande-de-Pomerol for an undisclosed price from Philippe Raoux. Raoux (who owns a further two châteaux) is enthusiastic about Chinese investment helping the larger Bordeaux wine industry. “Bordeaux is bust except for the top grands crus classes. This is a lucky chance for Bordeaux. They should buy several châteaux”. It is reported that Chinese buyers have snapped up 6 Bordeaux chateaux since the beginning of 2011.

Sauvignon Blanc Slushies
Brightwater Vineyards sold slushies (frozen drinks) made from their suavignon blanc at a charity event in New Zealand. Restauranteur Mike Curry said that the sav slushie, selling at the same price as a glass of wine, provides a refreshing alternative that would stay cool until people got to the bottom of the glass. For the temperance crowd, an apple slushie was also on offer.

Qantas praised for 'best cellars in the sky'
Qantas has again been lauded for its on-board wine selection at the annual Cellars in the Sky Award ceremony, held February 3 in London. The Australian flag-carrier which took four awards last year, won a total of six at this year's airline wine tasting event. Lufthansa was awarded as the airline with the Most Improved Business Class Cellar and All Nippon Airways won Most Improved First Class Cellar.
The jury (composed of British celebrity wine taster Charles Metcalfe and four other wine critics), judged entries from 36 airlines to choose the winners:
Best Business Class Cellar - Qantas
Best First Class Cellar - Qantas
Business Class White - American Airlines (Wegeler Bernkasteler Doktor Riesling 2007, Bernkastel, Mosel, Germany)
Business Class Red - Air New Zealand (Matariki Syrah 2007, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand)
Business Class Sparkling - Qatar Airways (Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle 1996, Champagne, France)
Business Class Fortified and Sweet - Qatar Airways and All Nippon Airways (Taylor's 20-Year-Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal)
First Class White - Qantas (Peter Lehmann Wigan Eden Valley Riesling 2004, Barossa, Australia)
First Class Red - Qantas (Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006, Canberra, Australia)
First Class Sparkling - Qantas (Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999, Champagne, France)
First Class Fortified - Qatar Airways (Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucins Furstentum Grand Cru Vendanges Tardives Gewurztraminer 2005, Alsace, France)

One bottle of Jura wine sold for £48,000 at auction
Each February an auction of Jura vin jaune takes places at Le Percée du Vin Jaune (piercing of the yellow wine) celebrating opening the first bottle of the newly released white wine. This year's auction was for the 2004 vintage, but an even more unusually old Jura wine showed up: 237 years-old! The bottle was produced from 100% sauvignon grapes during the reign of Louis XV, in 1774, and it was sold for 57,000 euros. The Swiss buyer, Pierre Chevrier, claimed that he plans to drink the wine.

German vintner discovers World War Two wine cache
Andreas Neymeyer discovered 500 bottles under a cellar staircase while clearing out a burned-out building on his L. Bastian vineyard near Endingen in southern Germany. "I was preparing the building to be torn down and my uncle knew that wine had been hidden sometime before the end of World War II. The French were about to invade. My family wanted to secure some wine if there was any looting. The wine is still drinkable; in fact some is quite good."
Some of the bottles were not from the vineyard but were sweet wines thought to be from Spain or Greece. Brandy, schnapps and sacramental wine was also found in the collection.

Another celebrity wine cellar under the hammer
Singer Chris DeBurgh, who most famous for his song "Lady in Red", is preparing to sell off some of his best vintages. The Private Cellar of Chris de Burgh will be auctioned at Christie's in London on March 23 and is expected to bring in £200,000.
His favorite wine for sale is a 12 bottle case of Château Lafite-Rothschild, vintage 1945 (estimate: £12,000-16,000). The highest value lot is his vertical collection of 62 magnums of Château Mouton-Rothschild, vintages 1945-2005 (estimate: £70,000-90,000).

South Africa’s Klein Constantia ditches screwcaps in favour of cork
Klein Constantia has reverted to cork closures for its flagship white Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc risks following concerns that screwcaps were affecting quality. The wine spends almost 10 months on fairly heavy lees before bottling and another 10 months in bottle before release. Head winemaker Adam Mason said:
“With this style of maturation there is a higher risk of developing sulphide characters, which in my opinion is exacerbated even further under screwcap. The original reason for the shift to screwcap was due to the unacceptably high failure rate of cork, but in the last number of years I have seen a marked improvement in cork’s performance.”

Wine, table and chef offer hospitality on a Miami sandbar?
First, a baby grand piano mysteriously showed up on a Miami sandbar. A day after it was removed, a small table with two chairs, place settings, a bottle of wine and a chef statue appeared on the now-famous strip of sand. 16-year-old art student admitted that he put the piano on the sandbar in Biscayne Bay as part of an art project. All the items have now been removed.

Foreign Office planning a wine sell-off
A review by the Foreign Office is expected to recommend a reduction in the size of the cellar to reduce the 40,000 bottles worth a total of £2 million. Recent reports on the cellar (located under Lancaster House, St James's) boasted 17 kinds of vintage champagne, 12 non-vintage brands of champagne, 20 kinds of port and 10 vintage brandies "which are to be used sparingly". A 1961 Corton, Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune Burgundy, is praised as "fabulous" with a note saying it is still seen as "a national treasure" by visiting French delegations. It is to be used "with extreme caution for Heads of State". Wine merchants say that among the most valuable are a 1961 Chateau Latour Bordeaux, with an estimated market price of £3,000 a bottle.
But the Government's hospitality advisory committee for the purchase of wines (a group of experts meeting around four times a year) is expected to survive despite reports that it was being abolished.

Britons buy more wine than the French
Wine consumption in UK rose by 1.1 per cent in 2010 to 1.765 billion bottles, making Britain the world's largest wine importer. Total sales reached 8.642 billion pounds - more than France - with consumption rising by 6.6 per cent since 2005. According to figures compiled by International Wine and Spirit Research, white wine is still Britons' tipple of choice, accounting for 44 per cent of consumption.

Wine Spectator reports incidence of Corked wines is in decline
Cork producers insist their products are improving, resulting in fewer "corked" wines. Based on tastings in the Wine Spectator Napa office during 2010, they are correct. 2010 was the best year for corks since they began tracking them in 2005, with only 5% corked rate.

Oldest known wine-making facility found in Armenia
The world's earliest known wine-making facility has been discovered in the mountains of south-east Armenia, say an international team of archaeologists. A wine press and fermentation jars from about 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in the south Caucasus country. Inside the cave, a shallow basin, measuring about 1m across was positioned to drain into a deep vat. The basin could have served as a wine press where people stomped the grapes with their feet. The team also found grape seeds, the remains of pressed grapes and dozens of dried vines of Vitis vinifera vinifera - still used to make wine today.

The same area was also the site of the discovery of the oldest known leather shoe, dated to about 5,500 years ago.

Constellation Brands Explains Details of Its Exit From Australia
Constellation revealed more details of its $290 million deal to sell its Australian and U.K. wine divisions to an Australian private equity fund, CHAMP, to be completed by mid-February. This will not affect sales and distribution of the brands globally. Two well-known wineries were not included in the sale. Historic Leasingham winery in Clare Valley is being sold to local winemaker Tim Adams, and Limestone Coast-based Stonehaven winery is to be taken over by the family-owned Australian Wine Equities.

Constellation paid $1.1 billion for Aussie powerhouse BRL Hardy in 2003, one of several big acquisitions the company made in the early part of the decade. Along the way, Constellation built a huge debt. Faced with a strong Australian dollar, high grape costs, duty increases and retailer consolidation, Constellation sought to slash costs in August 2008 by laying off 350 employees and dumping assets. More than 60 percent of the vineyards were sold, others were ripped out, and the Goundrey winery in Western Australia’s Mount Barker region was sold, but the company had difficulty finding buyers for Leasingham and Stonehaven.

New Test Can Identify What Grapes Are in Your Wine by fingerprinting differences in tannin
When a wine label reads “Merlot,” most consumers believe that’s what’s inside, but while scientists can genetically identify grapes, there hasn’t been a way to ID grape varieties in a finished wine. But now an ongoing medical study at the University of Texas (with help from colleagues at the University of California at Davis) haS developed a sensor that can identify grape varieties in wine by measuring and identifying the tannins. The group chose to study red wines since they have the most tannins. They tested varietals, including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Gamay, from various producers. White wines were not included in the test, but believes that the procedure can distinguish between white grapes since they contain tannins as well. “With fresh [grapes] you can do genetic analysis,” said Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, viticulture and enology chair at U.C. Davis. But there have been no tests that can identify varietals once they go through the winemaking process.

The study’s goal was not to produce a tool for the wine industry, but attempting to create a device that can mimic mammals’ senses of taste and smell to create diagnostic solutions for diseases. There are limits to the technique, however. It can’t determine the provenance of the wines, and obviously the wine must be opened to be tested.

Portuguese cork producer helps preserve 168 bottles of 200-year-old Champagne
Portuguese cork producer Amorim helped preserve 168 bottles of 200-year-old Champagne recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea off the coast of the Åland Archipelago. Amorim’s technical Champagne team advised on replacing the 200-year-old cork stoppers with new ones developed a new stopper made from a single piece of natural cork to meet the specifications of the antique bottles. The company also provided manual bottling machines that allowed the recovery team to insert new corks at a location close to the shipwreck site.

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